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Hunting for hidden gems

Self-released albums were king in 2012.

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Anaïs Mitchell

Courtesy of Jay Sansone

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Good news, music lovers! If the astounding variety of exciting new music that was self-released in 2012 is any indication, the demise of the big record companies has left behind a shimmering silver lining. Without the pressure to score the next big hit single, this DIY generation is suddenly on fire with unfettered creativity. Here is a rundown of some recent gems you might have missed.

Anaïs Mitchell is a captivating singer/songwriter from Vermont, whose 2012 album "Young Man in America" won the kind of unanimous critical superlatives rarely seen. Ms. Mitchell's little-girl voice belies the depth of her talent, and her songs and stories will touch your heart and stir your soul.

Montreal's Patrick Watson creates echo-laden musical cinema­scapes, his angelic falsetto vocals narrating the unfolding scenes, painting vivid aural pictures. "Adventures in Your Own Backyard" will draw you into its cotton-candy web.

A fellow traveler on the high lonesome road is Michigan native Lord Huron. His perfectly named "Lonesome Dreams" album layers chiming guitars and reverb-drenched vocals over vast landscapes where Mr. Huron seems destined to wander forever.

Everybody in roots music is talking about the amazing debut by 24-year-old Oklahoman John Fullbright, "From the Ground Up," and comparing him to big names like John Prine and Merle Haggard. His songwriting shows maturity far exceeding his tender age, and his guitar and piano chops are none too shabby either.

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